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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: The Writer’s Life

No, this is not Kristen having a breakdown. She’s on a boat having fun. This is Cait, talking about why I hate blogging as much as I hate downward-facing dog in yoga.

So, if I hate blogging, why do I do it? What’s more, why do I do it to Kristen’s exacting standards? Well, partly because I’m afraid of her. But, mostly, I blog because she is right about blogging in so many ways. It’s really not fair that she’s always right about this sort of stuff.

Yet, for something that seems so instinctive and intrinsically simple (“Writers write, ergo blogging”), why do we have so much trouble with it? Why does it spike my anxiety, trigger my perfectionist paranoia, and send me in the direction of scrubbing the toilet as a preferable way to spend my time?

I have spent a lot of time pondering this (probably time I should have spent drafting blogs). In fact, I have spent most of this week struggling with this post.

The first thing I had to do is come up with was a solid list of why I hate blogging (again, time that could have been spent writing). After thoroughly psyching myself out, I went back through all Kristen’s reasons that blogging makes sense (reinforcing the soul-eating guilt I feel at having wasted all that time not writing a post).

blogging

Finally, I remembered the corollary to Kristen’s blogging rule…but I’m gonna be mean and force you to read to the end to find out what that is. <insert moderately evil laugh here>

Blogging vs. just about anything else

I could do a whole post about all the reasons I hate blogging, but Kristen would probably jump off that cruise ship, swim all the way back up the Atlantic coast, dodge customs in Boston, and break down my door just to slap me upside the head about positivity. Because she loves me.

But, the truth is, I am more at home using negativity as a motivator and dwelling in the blessed realms of snark, cynicism, and dark things. That’s just the Slytherin in me, I guess. The challenge is finding a way to use my negativity about blogging to motivate myself in a positive way. And, I’m going to stop right there, because I’m starting to sound all self-helpy, and I can’t stand 99% of that ish.

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So, let’s just dive into the top three reasons I hate blogging, shall we?

Supersizing the topic

I come from an academic background. In a parallel dimension, I am a professor of history, still using the Red Pen of Wrath…just on my students instead. Academic writing habits are hard to break when it comes to blogging, even though some do come in handy.

One of the cardinal sins of academic writing is tackling a topic that is too broad or too narrow for the projected length of the paper.

I mean, sure, we can describe the decline and fall of the Roman empire in a three page, double-spaced, 12pt font paper (I’m old school page-count and print-out, before word-counts and emailed/uploaded papers became the norm). But, those three pages are going to be uselessly generic, not contributing anything to increasing our understanding of Roman history or helping develop our ability to think and analyze critically.

On the other hand, focus on TOO granular a subject, and well…it ends up being more of an anecdote or footnote. Probably interesting, but again, unlikely to contribute anything to the greater understanding or improve our critical thinking skills.

Blogging is like that for me.

I want what I write to be informative, useful, and accessible. But, writing a blog on “How to write historical fiction” isn’t going to help anyone. Writing a blog on “Understanding currency, income, and prices in historical fiction” (shout if you want me to write something like that) is probably a lot more useful AND interesting AND better written.

I constantly feel like Goldilocks, trying to find the right-sized topic that will live up to my probably-obsessively-over-fastidious standards.

Yoast is killing our brain cells

You know that little thing called SEO? Yeah, worst thing that has ever happened to the written word. And, I’m saying that even in comparison to text-speak and adding words like ‘ginormous’ to the dictionary. If SEO is pure evil, then Yoast is its right hand.

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Yoast is a website plugin that scores your posts and pages on readability and SEO strength. It’s unfortunate, but if we want our blog posts to have a chance at traction, we have to follow the rules it sets out. What are those rules?

First, we have to set a keyword. Fine. Like a gateway drug, that’s not so bad. But then, Yoast tells us how often we should be using that word (*side-eye at density score*), and where that word should come in titles and first paragraphs. If it stopped that, I’d grit my teeth and accept that algorithms are gonna do what algorithms are gonna do.

But then, Yoast starts picking at other things, like breaking up the text every 300 words with a sub-heading. Like making sure we don’t repeat the way we start a sentence. Like making sure less than 25% of our sentences have more than 20 words (and I know I purposely triggered the repetitive-sentence-start thing, but Yoast doesn’t really understand context or dramatic intent *flounces off*). Paragraphs can’t be too long, either – oops, gotta cut this one short!

Yoast is dumbing down blogging. By trying to make blogs easier to read, Yoast is encouraging a growing laziness in blog readers. What happens to a society when we can no longer focus past three sentences at a time in order to process a complex thought or multiple pieces of evidence to support an argument? I’ll tell you what happens: we get bad movie sequels, clickbait, and double-very-bad politics.

Paging Mr. Orwell, your 1984 is ready.

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I resent being forced to ‘dumb down’ my writing just so a brainless algorithm has an easier time of it. I write for people, not Google. Oh, wait. I use Yoast, so I guess I’m writing for Google. But, consider this another major reason why I hate blogging.

Perfectionism

This actually isn’t quite as related to what Kristen was talking about in this post. I’m talking about my inner intellectual demon that MUST BE RIGHT AT ALL TIMES. If a blog post is a form of educational argument, then dammit, I’m gonna WIN!

I’m not kidding. I approach each topic – especially anything that involves factual research – with a goal of creating an UNASSAILABLE argument. I want my post to be the Fort Knox of logic. My brain goes into hyper-passive-aggressive-nerd mode, playing Kasparov-esque chess with each point I write.

It’s exhausting.

blogging

I don’t mind admitting when I don’t know something. But, I feel soul-crushing humiliation when someone points out a stupid mistake or an obvious (or not-so-obvious) flaw in my argument. Maybe…just maybe I’m over-reacting, and I should get some therapy about it. Or, maybe, that drive to be as certain and correct in opinion and facts is what helps make my writing and teaching reliable and useful.

Still, the fact that I’ve got some subconscious id and ego stuff going on with perfectionism makes blogging an emotionally and intellectually draining task.

Le sigh…why Kristen is right about blogging

There are a lot of reasons Kristen is right about blogging being the best, most effective way for writers to market themselves. She is also right about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, but we’re just going to focus on blogging for the moment.

It all comes down to the three C’s: classic, cost-effective, and control. This is a trifecta that is pretty much the holy grail goal of all marketing. When I used to work in advertising, we wanted our ads to be memorable over the long-term, hit the target audience without breaking the bank, and look/feel/sound exactly as planned.

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The number of times Kristen has said this…

While the landscape might have changed from analog to digital, the principles and goals remain the same. Classic. Cost-effective. Control.

Classic: why blogging is the Talbots of author marketing

Warning: extended metaphor ahead. May cause eye strain from over-rolling of eyes.

Think of getting ready for a job interview. We have our resume, portfolio, references, and talking points at hand. The job description is a great match for our skills, and we know we’ll kick butt at it. We just have to wow them at the interview, so we inhale all the caffeine we can handle without inducing tachycardia, pop a couple of breath mints, and put on our interview suit.

The classic interview suit.

blogging

Maybe we stay simple and true with traditional accessories (pearls for ladies, cufflinks for gents). Or, maybe we add a dash of flair with a daringly patterned shirt or chunky piece of jewelry we picked up at a vintage sale. It’s a small piece of individualism, a little personal pleasure, and it only adds to the solid impression a classic suit makes.

A blog is like the classic interview suit. It never goes out of style. It is the best and strongest way we have of presenting our brand to readers. It’s the one wardrobe piece we never throw out because its quality was designed to endure. We can easily update and refresh the look with accessories, apps, widgets, and chunky vintage jewelry (um, yeah, getting all the metaphor stuff mixed up, I know).

Besides, if we want to be remembered as a writer, then the best and most enduring pitch we can make is…well… our writing.

blogging

Social media outlets like Snapchat, Instagram, What’s App, etc. are all well and good, but they are the Forever 21 funky accessory of marketing. They are fun, get attention, but may also tarnish and/or break fairly quickly. Can you say Vine? (So 2015!)

Just think about it…is anyone really ever going to go back through all our Snapchats, Tweets, or Instagram posts two years from now? But, as an admin on this site, I can tell you that there are blogs that Kristen has written that are four and five years old that are still top trackers and getting comments on a daily basis.

Now, that’s some classic-interview-suit power.

Cost-effective: how blogging can keep us from sin

Marketing is expensive. It costs us time and money – resources most of us are chronically short on. Marketing is also seductive. Nothing is as exciting as seeing swag with our name on it, or an ad for our book pop up on Facebook, or getting that shiny new book trailer. So, we try to find that balance between price and quality. Fun times.

blogging

And yes, if we set up our own domain and do stuff right with backup, security, and all that jazz, it will cost us a couple hundred dollars to get started. Depending on what plans we choose, there is also the yearly renewal fees. Still, that yearly cost pretty much comes down to the equivalent of three or four impulse purchases at Target. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to continue the clothing metaphor.)

The keys to leveraging a website (assuming we have decent content people want) are consistency and distribution. Consistency is a free feature that comes with wrangling our brains into some semblance of discipline. Distribution? Well, that’s what Jetpack is for. Again, it’s free.

Even with graphics, there is a lot we can do with free ‘photo editor’ apps. Personally, I pay $10 a month for a subscription to a professional-level app, but that’s because I do a LOT more than just blog graphics. And, I only started that subscription last year. Before that, I made do with free for about four years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some COSTLY mistakes. Like cringe-inducing-dear-God-if-You-loved-me-You-would-have-stopped-me-because-that-was-a-really-expensive-lesson mistakes. The only marketing tool I keep coming back to in the end is…you guessed it: my website (and occasionally Kristen’s because she forgets to lock the door).

Control: blogging vs. paranoia

Wanna hear a scary story? A romance author on Facebook builds an author page that gets 15,000 followers. She posts a picture for fun. The next time she logs into Facebook, her page is gone. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUN!

blogging

No, it wasn’t me. But, it has been many authors I’ve known. It’s a ‘cross-cultural’ phenomenon – there are versions in Instagramland, YouTubia, and Twitterburg.

Don’t forget, we also have to deal with ever-changing terms of use, hackers, and the final, fatal OMG-twitfacetogramchat-just-went-out-of-business! Want an example?

Dogster.

Don’t laugh. It was actually a great site for finding pet info. The fact that it was MySpace for pets is a whole other level of psychosis. Still, I met other Basenji owners through their forums, and they have become some of my closest, dearest friends. Thank goodness we had all exchanged contact info and signed up for Facebook before Dogster announced they were shutting down.

Think of MySpace…and Tila Tequila. Her original claim to fame was getting to a million followers on MySpace without much else (i.e. talent, content, etc.) to back it up. So…how’s that workin’ for ya, Tila?

blogging

A website of our own never goes away. Our blog content is subject to our rules. Our website is our castle, and we can defend against trolls and hackers with laser precision. Oh, and we can also build community through interacting with commenters, adding chat and forums, etc.

Remember, the flip-side of paranoia is control-freak! 🙂

Wait…that didn’t come out right…

The thing we usually forget Kristen said about blogging

Here’s the promised payoff from my little intro tease. Yes, we need to blog…but we also have to find a way to ENJOY it.

Somehow, I tend to forget that.

I haven’t entirely solved my blogging problems, and that’s probably partly because I’m still figuring out how to TRULY enjoy it. There are moments when I giggle to myself as I write something that is (at least I think) funny. Picking out the memes to go in a blog…I love telling people that it is legit part of my job. I bask in the glow of the final product and clicking ‘Publish.’

blogging

But…there’s still the anxiety, the dread, the worry I’m not providing good enough content or that I’ve gotten something wrong. It doesn’t take much to spiral me into a perfect orgy of procrastination…er…research.

However, I am experimenting, trying to figure out what I can do to both get better ABOUT blogging regularly and ENJOY blogging regularly. I’ve found I really enjoy making videos, and I’m about to dip my toe into podcasting (which I think is really spoken-word blogging). While the file sizes mean I wont’ be ‘hosting’ the videos and podcasts on my website, I will be centralizing all the information about them there.

I also have been sharing my love of creating reading ‘syllabi.’ But, being a snotty little French historian, I have to call them something pretentious like a ‘Catalogue Raisonné.’ It turns out I have a lot of fun going through my personal library to pick and choose what I put into the list. It also became something I could turn into another page for my website.

blogging

(And by the way, while I do think you’d enjoy those pages, putting external links into a blog post is another Yoast requirement. *shakes tiny fist*)

All in all, I’m still on the journey, but I’m determined to get there. If you happen to be on the same road, maybe we can travel together?

Let me hear it!

Why do you love/hate blogging? What are your tips for becoming a happy, successful blogger? Share the love…or hate, LOL.

Class tonight!

URBAN FANTASY: SALT CIRCLE NOT INCLUDED

PARANORMAL, URBAN FANTASY, GHOSTS, VAMPIRES, WRITINGInstructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, October 19, 2018. 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE!

Be honest. How many voodoo dolls have you mutilated in your quest to become the next Laurell K. Hamilton or Sherrilyn Kenyon?

  • 0-9: You’re probably too virtuous to ever get published.
  • 10-19: Equivalent of the New Year’s resolution of voodoo…fizzles in week 2.
  • 20-29: You’ve won NaNoWriMo once or twice and wear lucky writing socks.
  • 30+: Now, we’re talking.

In all seriousness, urban fantasy has emerged as one of the strongest and most competitive categories in publishing, building on the momentum of legends like Anne Rice and expanding to embrace all kinds of sub-genres such as YA, satire, and romance.

But for all its badass convention-breaking, urban fantasy also a genre boobytrapped with the worst pitfalls of all the genres it borrows from.

If we’re not overdoing the Mickey Spillane-esque hard-boiled grit, we’re confusing which supernatural creature has which power. Or, we’re creating characters that are so wrapped up in their love lives with <insert hot supernatural guys here>, they almost miss the climactic battle between good and evil happening a couple blocks over.

Fear not! Strap on your vampire-hunting gear, grab your wolfsbane gris-gris, and don’t forget to bring your sarcastic sidekick to this class where I will help you navigate the mean streets and treacherous back alleys of urban fantasy!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

SEE YOU TONIGHT!!!

 

 

We’re all hunters here, searching for the elusive, nearly mythical creature known only as the Good Beta Reader.

The feeling of finding a good beta reader is a lot like what Japanese marine researchers felt when they caught the first image of the giant squid in 2013. Read about it here because it’s just so cool. It’s a whiff of the miraculous and literally inspiring.

beta reader squid
Image courtesy of The Malaysian Times, January 7, 2013

Yet, it took a three-man crew more than 100 missions and 400 hours crammed into a tiny submersible to capture that image. We can totally, relate, right? I mean, we writers patiently paddle through the depths of the interwebs and wade through endless writing group cafe meet-ups in order to find our very own giant squid…er…beta reader.

It would be so easy to just settle for smaller squid, a couple of octopus, or even a cuttlefish. Anyone here immediately think of the South Park ‘Human CentiPad’ episode when I said that? There are lots of people out there who seem willing to be our sounding board.

What we want with a good beta reader is a squid who will become delicious pan-seared calamari with a side of chipotle aioli—enjoyable with a bit of bite. All too often, though, we end up tangled in tentacles, with suction cups stuck to our words, and hooks buried deep in our psychological soft spots.

Well, today, I’m going to teach you how to navigate treacherous waters and avoid getting mauled by predators. How? With the Reynolds & Lamb Field Guide to the North American Beta Reader.

The Beta Critic

It is easy to identify Beta Critic tracks by the copious amounts of red ink. The Critic often camouflages itself by wearing sophisticated scarves and dark nail polish. These creatures subsist mostly on coffee, white wine, and the tears of writers.

The Critic’s mating call tends to attract newer, more idealistic writers. Mates are drawn in by warbled promises of help in improving their writing. During the gestation of the draft, the Critic stays by its mate’s side, crooning a melodic mix of condescending encouragement and passive-aggressive critique.

beta reader

Critics are extremely protective of their mates during the gestation process. They will snap in warning and attack to fend off any other beta reader who wants to offer a different opinion. The Critic considers itself a solitary apex predator and expects all other writers and beta readers to agree with it.

Mates must often try several times to leave the Critic, needing to recover from the failed escape’s emotional mauling. Permanent and debilitating scarring is often prominently visible on survivors.

As writers, we need criticism, and not just the ‘constructive’ kind. Hard criticism forces us to face and work on major flaws. It re-energizes us with a little healthy anger or challenge. Tough love is tough, but it’s the love that makes it so powerful and transformative.

The Beta Critic takes a good thing like tough love and strips it of the ‘love.’ They turn blunt honesty into blunt-force trauma in order bolster their own insecure egos by breaking down someone else’s. Even if they promise us to be better, to be kinder, we need to remember that a Beta Critic can never really change their spots.

The Beta Gusher

This friendly little fuzzy creature is easily lured out into the open with promises of being able to read stuff for free. They are known for their distinctive chirping noises and an unnatural perkiness.

One theory posits that the Beta Gusher evolved from the primordial camaraderie of the book club, developing in a petri dish of chardonnay and bad chick lit. Another school of thought believes the Gusher is a result of Amazon KDP’s tinkering with literary quality DNA.

The Gusher is highly adaptable to any genre, as well as to both in-person and online critique groups. They lure writers by emitting pheromones designed to trigger feelings of being empowered and encouraged.

Gushers are not without their defenses, should they receive actual criticism. It only takes an astounding .006 seconds for them to go from bubbly to blubbering. The Gusher’s guilt trip can induce temporary paralysis in the author. Prolonged exposure to Gusher guilt can result in extreme fatigue, depression, and social anxiety.

All fun aside, I get why we fall for Gushers. They deal praise like crack. Nothing is as addictive as validation of our dreams. And, we DO need our cheerleaders for those moments when the world gets rough with our dreams.

But, when it comes to being a critique partner, what we need most is honest feedback, kindly given. Support and critique are not mutually exclusive concepts. In the long run, a Gusher becomes a serious drain on our time, emotions, and energy.

Speaking of creatures who drain time and energy…

The Over-Committer Beta

The Beta Over-Committer is a multi-habitat creature found in all climate zones…all at the same time. Tracking the Over-Committer requires a specialized set of skills, such as the ability to smell broken promises a mile away and having the patience of a saint.

Of all the beta reader species we have examined today, it’s the Over-Committer that can actually do the most damage to authors. They are unique in their near-viral ability to take over its host critique partner.

Like insects flashing their eyespots to deceive predators, the Over-Committer flashes moments of thoughtful feedback and productivity to attract their prey. Authors are lured by the promise of useful critique and a partner with enough energy to power a small café of aspiring writers.

However, once the writer has taken the bait of a partnership, the Over-Committer attacks. Armed with incisors of sincerity, they go for the jugular, injecting their victim with multiple manuscripts to review. Afterwards, they administer small doses of gratitude as boosters to keep the prey docile and compliant.

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Personally, I’ve been a victim of the Over-Committer many times in my life. I’ve also over-promised and under-delivered before, but the difference is that I didn’t defend myself by creating a cult of personality to justify or excuse my failures. Over-Committers combine the worst of the Critic and the Gusher, leaving us diminished, depressed, disenfranchised.

And the hardest part is that we never see it coming.

Good beta readers both give and take in equal measure. They put aside their ego and needs to invest in our work, and they expect the same from us. That kind of balance requires trust, compassion, commitment, and expertise…

Which means that good beta readers are basically unicorns.

The Unicorn Beta

So…does that mean we give up trying to find a good beta reader?

NEVER!

They are out there, and together, we can not only find them, but we can become better beta readers ourselves. To that end, I’m teaching a class this Friday where I’ll be handing out maps, equipment checklists, and freeze-dried wisdom to help you be successful in your hunt for the ever elusive Good Beta Reader.

Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

beta readerInstructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, August 24, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m.

REGISTER HERE

Whoever said that writing a book is a solitary job is an idiot.

It takes a village (or at the very least a Facebook group, some friends, and possibly a bottle of wine) to write a book. As writers, we need other writers…and non-writers. But, how do we find the right mix of people to support us? What do we do when they don’t? How do we communicate what we need effectively to beta readers and crit partners? And what the heck is an alpha reader?

What’s more, how do we take the feedback from beta readers and use it correctly? It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of spinning our wheels on endless edits of the draft of the first draft, to react big and badly to criticism, or to drown in the obligations of reciprocating beta reading for our seventeen new best friends and their manuscripts.

Fear not! This class is going to show you how to hunt down beta readers like big game, befriend them in a way that puts Dale Carnegie to shame, and create long-lasting, mutually-beneficial beta and crit partnerships that are so Hufflepuff/Gryffindor, it makes my Slytherin soul cringe.

This class will cover:

  • Wherefore art thou?: Where to find beta readers;
  • Alpha betas, beta betas, omega betas: The different types of beta readers, and why we need them;
  • Fish or cut beta: What to do when a beta reader relationship isn’t working – fix, fight, or flight?
  • I’m looking at the beta reader in the mirror: Are you the best beta reader you can be, and why improving your own skills will make you a better writer;
  • Gospel vs. grain of salt: How to balance thoughtful consideration of critique with Pavlovian instant tweaking, and why beta readers should never be the one holding the map on the hike.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


MORE CLASSES!

(Check out our page of current classes!)

Also, a small house-keeping note: if you’d like to see more of our shenanigans, check out our video page


When Your Name Alone Can Sell

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: General Admission $55.00 USD/ GOLD Level $175
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Thursday, SEPTEMBER 13th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

LEARN TO BE A BRAND BOSS!

All authors need a brand, so this class teaches how to locate and cultivate your audience into passionate fans who BUY YOUR BOOKS!

How can you grow your platform and turn your name alone into a bankable asset? Not as hard as you might have been led to believe.

You DO NOT need to be a tech guru/mega-high-pressure-sales person to excel at this. In fact, best you aren’t.

Yet, the reality is that in the digital age of commerce, consumers rely on brands more than ever in human history. They’re overwhelmed and we can help them out….by finding US.

Consumers (which is code for readers) buy from who they know, like and trust. In a sea of infinite choices a powerful NAME is a tremendous asset.

Can you say “James Patterson”?

The single largest challenge all writers face in the digital age is discoverability and connecting with our audience is a challenge but nothing we can’t handle.

This class will address:

  • What is a brand? How to make one uniquely your own.
  • How to BE YOU! You’re a writer, not an insurance salesman!
  • Harness your imagination & creativity for better results (No one likes SPAM, so don’t serve it!).
  • How to use this information to locate, engage and cultivate an audience.
  • Myths about exposure.
  • Common scams that will wreck your brand and earning ability.
  • Why most promotion is a waste of money.
  • A list of expensive and not-so-bright ideas for reaching readers.
  • Knowing when and HOW to promote.

Overall this class is about working smarter not harder. This class is to teach you to think strategically so all energy is focused. Sure, we have to hustle, but why not hustle and there be an AUTHENTIC PAYDAY for all that hard work?

GOLD LEVEL AVAILABLE: This is you working with me (Kristen Lamb) for 90 minutes building, defining, refining your brand and putting together a PLAN! Time is money and professional consulting saves BOTH.

****A FREE recording is included with purchase of this class.


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $40.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY, August 30th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Humans have always been fascinated with what scares them which is why horror fiction is a staple genre. It is also, quite possibly, the most challenging genre to write. Giant bugs and chainsaws just don’t get the screams they used to.

Blood, guts, gore and shock factor are low-hanging fruit (and always have been) and worse than that? They simply don’t have the impact they used to.

Audiences are too desensitized. This means we need to work harder to dig in and poke at what REALLY frightens/disturbs people.

Though this genre is extremely challenging to write well, there is an upside. The horror genre lends itself well to the short form (novellas and short stories).

Believe it or not, some of our staple horror movies–and the BEST horror movies—were actually adaptations of short stories and novellas (1408 by Stephen King and Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker being two examples).

Meaning, if you want to go Hollywood? Hollywood loooooves horror.

In this class we will cover:

  • The science behind fear and why people crave it. Why fear is even healthy!
  • Psychology of fear, thus how to locate the pain points.
  • Why audiences are craving MORE horror (Yes, this actually does go in cycles).
  • The different types of horror fiction.
  • The importance of character in horror.
  • How horror can actually resonate much like literary fiction.
  • How to generate page-turning tension that will leave readers with a story they can’t stop thinking about…and that might even give them nightmares.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Keywordpalooza: Tune in, mellow out, and learn to love keywords for Amazon

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, September 7, 2018. 7:00—9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

It’s one of the universe’s great mysteries… the same word can both boost and drown your book in a category (mind BLOWN, man!).

Keywords also seem to evolve every five minutes…or are we the one evolving, like a butterfly having a dream of SEO (trippy, dude!)? Like gravity and Jane Fonda’s hair in ‘Barbarella,’ the popular rules for using keywords value over-inflation and the slavish following of fads.

But, like Talbot’s tweed and mother’s pearls, certain marketing strategies and techniques are enduring classics that stand the test of time. They’re not flashy like bellbottoms, nor do they yield dramatic overnight results like ironing your hair. Yet, ignore trends, and we risk getting left behind…kind of like buying electric typewriter ribbon because that whole ‘computer word processing’ thing will never take off.

This class won’t just help you turn on, tune in, and drop out of the keyword rat race. We’ll also cover:

  • Fully body contact SEO: when and where to use keywords, and what publishers know that you don’t;
  • Fantastic keywords and where to find them: which websites, lists, search engines, and Magic 8 Balls yield the best keyword research results;
  • Mix and match like a Parisienne: no, seriously, how to mix consistent ‘classic’ keywords with the latest trends like a Frenchwoman wears a crisp white shirt with this season’s Hermes scarf;
  • Same bat genre, same bat book, different bat keywords?: learn the differences between keywords for ebooks, print, and audio;
  • And so much more!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Building Planet X: Out-of-This-World-Building for Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Speculative fiction may be a way of seeing the world ‘through a glass darkly,’ but it can also be one of the clearest, most pointed, and even most disturbing ways of seeing the truth about ourselves and our society.

It’s not just the weird stuff that makes the settings of speculative fiction so unnerving. It’s the way ‘Normal’ casually hangs out at the corner of ‘Weird’ and ‘Familiar.’

But it’s trickier than it seems to get readers to this intersection without letting them get bogged down in the ‘Swamp of Useless Detail’ or running them into the patch of ‘Here be Hippogriffs’ (when the story is clearly about zombies). How do we create a world that is easy to slip into, absorbingly immersive, yet not distracting from the character arcs and plots?

This class will cover:

  • Through the looking glass darkly: How to take a theme/issue/message and create a world that drives it home to the reader.
  • Ray guns and data chips: The art of showing vs. telling in world-building.
  • Fat mirror vs. skinny mirror: What is scarce in the world? Valuable? Forbidden? Illegal? What do people want vs. what they have vs. what they need?
  • Drawing a line in the sand: What are the laws, taboos, limits of this world? What is unacceptable to you/the reader/the character? How are they the same or different, and why it matters.
  • Is Soylent Green gluten-free and other vital questions: All the questions you need to ask about your world, but didn’t know…and how to keep track of all the answers.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Populating Planet X: Creating Realistic, Relatable Characters in Speculative Fiction

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 1:00—3:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

It’s a time-honored tradition in literature to take an ordinary person out of his or her normal life and throw them into a whirlwind of extraordinary circumstances (zombies/tyrants/elves/mean girls optional). After all, upsetting the Corellian apple cart is what great storytellers do best.

It’s also that very same ordinariness and normalcy that first gets the reader to identify then empathize with the characters and stick with them (and the book) through to the end.

But, what do we do when our ‘ordinary’ protagonist lives with a chip implant and barcode tattoo, and our antagonist happens to be a horde of flesh-eating aliens…or a quasi-fascist regime bent on enforcing social order, scientific progress above ethics, and strict backyard composting regulations (those MONSTERS!)?

How the heck is the reader supposed to identify with that? I mean, seriously. Regulating backyard composting? It would never happen in a free society.

This leaves us with two challenges in creating characters for speculative fiction: 1. How to use the speculative world-building to shape the backgrounds, histories, and personalities of characters, and 2. How to balance the speculative and the relatable to create powerful, complex character arcs.

This class will cover:

  • Resistance is futile: What does normal look like for the characters? What’s different or strange, and how to get readers to accept that retinal scans and Soylent Green are just par for the course.
  • These aren’t the droids you’re looking for: What are the discordant elements around the characters? What are their opinions about it? What are the accepted consequences or outcomes?
  • You gonna eat that?: Whether it’s running from brain-eating zombies or fighting over dehydrated space rations, what is important both physically and emotionally to the character? What is in short supply or forbidden?
  • We’re all human here (even the ones over there with tentacles): The basic principles and techniques of creating psychological touchpoints readers can identify with.
  • Digging out the implant with a grapefruit spoon: In a speculative world, what are the stakes for the character? The breaking point? The turning point?
  • And so much more!!!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 4:00—6:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term used to describe narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements. This includes but it not necessarily limited to fantasy, science fiction, horror, utopian, dystopian, alternate history, apocalyptic fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction.

Basically, all the weird stuff.

Gizmos, gadgets, magic, chainsaws, demons, fantastical worlds and creatures are not enough and never have been. Whether our story is set on Planet X, in the sixth dimension of hell, on a parallel world, or on Earth after Amazon Prime gained sentience and enslaved us all, we still must have a core human story that is compelling and relatable.

In this class we will cover:

  • Discovering the core human story problem.
  • How to plot these unique genres.
  • Ways to create dimensional and compelling characters.
  • How to harness the power of fear and use psychology to add depth and layers to our story.
  • How to use world-building to enhance the story, not distract from it.

***A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


The XXX Files: The Planet X Speculative Fiction 3-Class Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $110.00 USD (It’s LITERALLY one class FREE!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m. EST.

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Kristen Lamb is the author of the definitive guide to social media and branding for authors, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. She’s also the author of #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She’s just released her debut thriller The Devil’s Dance.

Kristen has written over twelve hundred blogs and her site was recognized by Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers. Her branding methods are responsible for selling millions of books and used by authors of every level, from emerging writers to mega authors.

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

 

 

Death characters

I think there’s one thing we can all agree about: it’s pretty awful that life doesn’t have a pause button when it comes to things like death and grief.

One of the things that Kristen always says (I call them Lamb’s Laws) is that real writers don’t wait for all the stars to align, perfect barometric pressure, and a good hair day in order to ‘feel the muse’ and write. That means that I’ve written parts of this blog on a plane from Boston to Indianapolis to grieve for a man who was like a father to me. I’ve written other parts in between condolence visits, remembrance services, and private moments of comforting.

Dr. Shahid Athar was a good man—a very good man, one of the few who truly lived the spirit of compassion, love, and charity that is central to all religions. He was an internationally-renowned doctor who would quietly slip away to volunteer his services in shelters. He was both deeply observant and an open-minded philosopher scholar who sought to bring faiths and communities together. He also had a wicked, sly sense of humor—I remember how he used to make my dad laugh until he cried, or the way I’d do a double-take when I realized he had just deadpanned a gentle burn on me. Oh, and his Fourth of July tandoori chicken barbecues for a hundred people were some of my best childhood memories.

Death characters
Reverend Jerry Zehr, Dr. Shahid Athar, Rabbi Dennis Sasso – Carmel Interfaith Alliance

I got the news on Saturday afternoon that he was slipping away. I reacted as I usually do in a crisis: I made a to-do list. Flights, hotel, car, packing, last-minute work stuff…it was only late that night when I was done that I allowed myself twenty minutes to drink half-a-glass of whiskey and cry. Then my timer went off, and I blew my nose, drank some water, and went to bed.

Yeah, I’ve got a timeshare by a river in Egypt.

Vulnerable Author, Visceral Prose

Let’s be clear. I know very well that I am putting off dealing with all of this. I give it about two weeks before I randomly burst into tears in the middle of CVS on a Tuesday. I get it. But, I also know that every time I grieve, I learn something different about grief itself. And like all good writers with vaguely sociopathic and dissociative tendencies, part of my brain is busy observing and cataloguing all this and figuring out how to use it to gut readers with my words.

The thing is, though, in order to do that, I will have to do the thing I hate most in the world (aside from picking up the dry-cleaning—don’t ask, I don’t understand it either). I will have to allow myself to feel and express emotion.

While there are certain limits to the ‘write-what-you-know’ philosophy like committing serial murder to get the ‘feel’ for it, imbuing characters with genuine reactions requires us to draw on a very personal well of feelings and life experiences.

If we want a truly visceral reaction from our readers, we have to be truly vulnerable. The honesty of deep emotion is what brings us all together, whether we like it or not. *side-eye at Sarah McLaughlin*

Death characters

Echoes of the Present

One of the unexpected things I’ve experienced with this death is what I’m going to call ‘reverb.’

It’s the unexpected way a death can echo other deaths. Losing a man who was like a father to me is not exactly like losing my father. But, there are enough similarities that the great bell of memory rings in the space in my chest, its dark resonance vibrating deep in my bones.

It’s not déjà vu because in a sense, it has happened before. The call. The flight. The last-minute arrangements. The feeling of racing against time to get there for a goodbye. The sense that life turned another corner while you weren’t looking, and there’s no going back.

But, it’s not actually my father. It’s another daughter who has lost her anchor. It’s another son who suddenly discovers just how much business death involves. It’s another mother we are reminded is also a wife as she grieves for a marriage that at its heart began and ended with two people in love. It’s another home where we keep looking up expecting to see a father stroll into the room with a joke and smile for everyone.

When a character is confronted by death, it’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves who is it that they have actually lost, beyond the labels of friend and family. Was that person a trusted confidant? An enemy who should have been a friend? Even a complete stranger’s death can go beyond the label when we realize that person had a full life of experiences that we would never know.

A person only truly dies once, but memory is thousand mirrors that reflect it back to us a thousand times a day.

Living Death

Death is experienced in its entirety by the living.

I know, but bear with me. Death spans the dying process and the moment of stoppage, but also the moments, minutes, days, and weeks after. It is the living who feel the aftermath.

There is a physicality to death—even a peaceful one—that shocks us and rocks reality down to its foundations. It splits time into before and after, and yet if we think about the paradox of infinitely divisible time, the moment of death exists for its own little eternity. It’s counted in beats per minute, oxygen levels, complex chemical reactions, and the half-life of cellular decay. It’s a creeping cold and a moment of absolute stillness that nothing but death can create.

Death characters

I was at my father’s side when he drew his last breath. We had turned off the monitors. There was no point in taunting us with its cruelly absolute measurements. Instead, I watched the fluttering pulse in my father’s neck. It was so strange to see that little vein gently jumping beneath his skin. Even stranger still was how it faded and stopped. His expression changed, from the soft half-smile of sedation to a more solemn and severe mien as the muscles in his face went slack without the spark of a living brain and the impetus of a manifested will.

When characters behold death, what is it they actually see? Do they smell the crisp, bitter antiseptic cleaner of a hospital room? Do they hear an annoying sniffle of someone who just won’t blow their nose? Do they feel the chilly weight of a hand that will never hold them back?

Death is the end of a single story, but death lives on as a grim rule of punctuation for those whose survive.

There is no Cure for the Ugly Crying Hangover

One of the reasons I hate crying is because I always end up with gritty eyes, a snot-induced sinus headache, and an overall sense of being slightly puffy.

It’s not that I don’t cry. I can and do. *once more, throws shade at Sarah McLaughlin*

Death characters

I know people who don’t really ugly cry. They won’t exactly win any beauty contests, but they don’t do the hiccupping-while-dripping-snot-that-ends-up-choking-you thing that makes people hesitate a fraction of a second before going in for the hug.

I hate those people.

Death characters

Another thing I hate? When people recite to me the five stages of grieving. I want to take that linear progression and beat them with it. In reality, the five stages of grief are really most like a pinball machine.

We ricochet from anger to denial. Acceptance bounces back and forth between bargaining and depression. The first year alone after a death is a grief-stricken jackpot of shock, bad life choices, acting out, and fractured relationships.

I couldn’t wait to be done with all the ‘firsts’ – the first birthday, Fourth of July, Halloween (yeah, that holiday had me sobbing as I watched trick-or-treaters because he loved greeting them and giving out candy). I don’t remember much about the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s because frankly, I was either half-in-the-bag or fully in-the-bag. Not my proudest moments, but I have yet to be judged for grieving in a very imperfect but very human way.

Death characters

The same goes for characters. Sometimes, we struggle to have characters make the bad decisions that give them depth and create the conflict necessary for good stories. Death and grief give characters a way to be irrational and make bad decisions without making them unsympathetic.

Death is a Party

Go to any wake or at-home receiving time, and you will see the same tableau play out. The food might be different, the language might be strange, the gods foreign, but I will bet you two bits* (one of my father’s favorite phrases) that you will see the following cast of characters:

  • The Organizer: Kind, busy, slightly harassed, slightly put-upon-but-secretly-enjoying-the-sympathy-of-being-the-hard-working-one…in other words, the Munchausen by Proxy griever;
  • The Drama Queen: Usually centrally seated in living room, and also usually the prettiest crier in the family…willingly recites the account of how the defunct passed on over and over again for each visitor, basking in the spotlight of their sympathy;
  • The Sh!tface Drunk: Can usually be found brooding out on the back porch because he/she hates people in general and doesn’t have the words to express the depth of their sorrow…also liable to engage the Drama Queen in World War III after the guests have left;
  • The Angry One: A sober version of the Sh!tface Drunk…liable to engage the Drama Queen in World War III while the guests are still there, and also prone to snapping at the Organizer;
  • The Inappropriately Cheerfully Spiritual One: Voted most likely to inadvertently trigger the Sh!tface Drunk and the Angry One into lashing out…also shunned by the Drama Queen because optimism and acceptance totally ruin her grief game.

Death characters

I know this is pure snark, but death often brings out personality traits that usually lie dormant. And, as much as death brings families and friends together, it is also an occasion littered with the landmines of conflict, misunderstandings, and miscommunication.

And, like I said earlier, if you’re like me and have those vaguely sociopathic and dissociative tendencies to always be observing and analyzing, death’s mix of irrevocability, emotion, money, and words is a volatile, combustible substance that practically guarantees good drama.

Like Fathers, Like Daughter

My father was unwavering in his faith that I would someday be a writer. Yes, he was encouraging and supportive when I had other jobs or got promotions, but he would always say at the end, “Just remember, Caity, you were meant to be a writer.” (And just so people don’t get any ideas, only my father, my Uncle Shahid, and his family are allowed to call me Caity.)

I made a deathbed promise to my father to become that writer. I’d like to think he heard me in his sedated state. More importantly, I know he would be happy that I accomplished this goal for my own sake and my own future.

Death characters
Father and Daughter

Uncle Shahid was also an author. He published numerous books about Islam, both for the Muslim community and for the general public in his relentlessly optimistic drive to bring people of all faiths together. He believed people could be better. He believed in the power of words and communication to build bridges over the chasms of fear, ignorance and prejudice. He fearlessly tackled subjects like balancing the advances of modern medicine with the ethical concerns of contemporary Islam, healing the wounds of September 11th, and how to communicate healthy attitudes about sexuality to Muslim youth.

He wrote books of poetry and reflections on prayer. He was a newspaper guest columnist. And, let’s not forget, he wrote scientific and medical research papers for his work as an endocrinologist.

He did all of that while speaking English as a fourth language after Urdu, Arabic, and Hindi. He could also tell jokes in all four languages. As I sit in his study writing this, I am looking at the wall-to-wall bookshelves filled to overflowing with books on everything from the history of medicine, to classic literature, to Native American art. I will miss his passion for the written word.

Death characters
Nine languages, four religions, four immigrants, two citizens born, three life-threatening chronic illnesses, countless heated discussions about cooking…and a lifetime of memories with my family.

Shahid Athar was the father who stood by me as my dad drew his final breaths, and who—from memory—began to recite one of the poems both he and my dad loved:

UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

– Robert Louis Stevenson

I’d like to think that they are laughing together somewhere, arguing about some outrageously academic, esoteric, political, religious, literary, technological topic…or maybe they are just comparing notes on the daughter who is writing this and missing them.

 

Left-Right: my father Dr. K.C. Khemka, my other father Dr. Shahid Athar. Friends and brothers once more together.

 

Whether it’s grief, love, anger, commitment, or loss, what emotion that scares you the most to put down paper? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Upcoming Classes for August & September


Brand Boss: When Your Name Alone Can Sell

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: General Admission $55.00 USD/ GOLD Level $175
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Thursday, September 13th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


Building Planet X: Out-of-This-World-Building for Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Populating Planet X: Creating Realistic, Relatable Characters in Speculative Fiction

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 1:00—3:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 4:00—6:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


The XXX Files: The Planet X Speculative Fiction 3-Class Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $110.00 USD (It’s LITERALLY one class FREE!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m. EST.

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

 


 


Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, August 24, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m.

REGISTER HERE

 

 


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $40.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY, August 30th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 

 


Keywordpalooza: Tune in, mellow out, and learn to love keywords for Amazon

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, September 7, 2018. 7:00—9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

Our culture trains us to be ‘nice.’ No is a two-letter ‘four-letter word.’ Boundaries are ‘being mean.’ We should all strive to ‘understand, be flexible, and all get along.’  It’s as if there’s no middle ground between jerk and b$#@ versus someone with a healthy sense of boundaries.

Besides *chirpy voice* good deeds add up. If we’re nice to others, they’ll be nice to us! In fact the NICER we are, the better.

*gags*

The problem with this thinking is it’s utter and total bull sprinkles. It’s propaganda for the takers to groom eager givers, to keep us in line and happy to give more and more…even when its killing us.

Part of how predators (takers) maintain the grift is to fool us into believing that effort and results always have direct correlation.

What they don’t want you or me (or anyone else brave enough to confess to being a sucker) is this: The one-to-one ratio regarding effort and reward only applies in certain areas.

We’re bombarded with the notion that if we work twice as long, we can expect twice the results.

This IS true, just not universally true.

More is Not Always MORE

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

Let’s use an example. Say I work twice as long and twice as hard cleaning my house. Yes, my house will be twice as clean. Say, I make a clean spot and work four times, five times, ten times longer and harder to make my house SHINE.

I organize every drawer and closet, touch up ugly dings in the floorboards with leftover paint, and scrub and polish everything in my house that doesn’t move fast enough to evade my Swiffer (I’ve never done this *whistles innocently*) then sure, my home will look AMAZING.

My results will reflect time, effort, and vigor in direct proportion to effort vested.

If, however, I work twice as hard to get people to like me, the more likely my enthusiasm will simply make others run away while mumbling words like ‘needy,’ ‘clingy,’ and ‘stalker.’

Most reasonable folks would agree that taking a shower daily is a good thing. Taking thirty showers a day? This doesn’t make me ‘cleaner,’ it makes me a classic case of OCD and prime candidate for behavioral therapy and psych meds.

But This Isn’t ME

Okay, okay I get it. Some of you are laughing at me right now. Kristen, I don’t take thirty showers a day. I’m lucky take one. I barely have time to call my friends once a month, let alone ten times a day. This just doesn’t apply to me.

Fair point, but bear with me.

See, when I focus the effort-reward correlation on ONE activity, the insanity is far easier to see. No one needs a degree in clinical psychology to discern that mowing our yard twice a day is…well, crazy.

But how many of us overcommit? We say yes to everything and everyone believing the more we DO, the better person we are. The more we are nice to others, the more OTHERS will be nice to us. More NICE expended equals more NICE returned.

Right?

An Example

So I don’t hurt any feelings, I’m going to make up an example I believe many of us ‘nice guys/gals’ can relate to.

Let’s say your boss assigns your colleague a very important task. She’s to host a dinner party for the out-of-town investors your company wants to impress. You’re stoked because you’ve been eagerly looking forward to networking with the movers and shakers in your industry.

Four days before the event, your colleague calls frantic and asks you to help. You say yes, because you’re so nice. You assume maybe she needs help making seating arrangements or folding napkins into swans.

It’s only after you agree to help that your colleague confesses she hasn’t even started.

She’s gonna get fired! Your desperate colleague is in crisis and begs for your help (while ugly-crying). She might say things like:

You’re the type of person who can handle this! Why did Mr. Boss pick me and not you? What will the investors think? How will this impact the company image? I can’t believe I messed up so badly *sobs*.

And you comfort her and agree to help because you’re so incredibly nice. Worse, you’re beyond nice (you’re pathologically nice).

Since this colleague failed to book a venue or hire caterers early enough, you know the bill for something so last-minute will be staggering. It’s fine, though. You can host at your in-law’s large home and do the cooking yourself. Then the company will see how much money you saved them and all you did to pull off—a frigging miracle—an incredible party.

Sure it sucks you had to hire a professional cleaning service to detail your in-law’s home and took three vacation days to cook a gourmet spread that catered to paleo, vegan, and vegetarian preferences (all organic and gluten-free).

But it will all pay off.

Besides, you gave your colleague the receipts so she can make sure you’ll be reimbursed.

Alas, during the dinner party, instead of networking as planned and boosting your career up a few rungs, you’re too busy in the kitchen making sure there are enough clean wine glasses.

Meanwhile, your ‘desperate’ colleague is remarkably at ease. She’s happily chatting away in her new designer dress while you hide…since you smell like a turducken had a one night stand with a Bananas Foster.

As you’re cleaning the red wine stain off your MIL’s cream carpet, you overhear your boss praising your colleague for such ingenuity. She put together a fabulous event, and did so by applying imagination, creativity, delegation and using only half the allotted budget!

*Boss gaping at the receipts she hands him*

Just as you’re contemplating whether your colleague’s body will fit in the trunk of your Honda, she comes and hugs you and tells you how you are the BEST! She couldn’t have done it without you and you’re a magician.

Funny thing, though. If you’re the magician, how is she the one who disappears when the party ends and it’s time to clean up?

Any guesses on who got the promotion?

Hint: She ain’t the one washing dishes.

We’re Called to Be KIND Not NICE

nice, kind, Road House, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and niceAs a writer, I’m particularly picky about words. There are far too many words used as synonyms, when they really aren’t. Kind and nice are my peeves because our culture uses them interchangeably. Yet, kind and nice are NOT the same thing. Not even close.

We’ve likely all heard Nice guys (gals) finish last. But who’s ever heard, Kind guys (gals) finish last?

Ever heard Kill em with niceness? Yeah. Me neither.

What’s the difference?

Nice people are nice. They place everyone and everything as a priority ahead of themselves. When we’re nice, we’re people-pleasers and approval addicts. We seek reward via a proxy, instead of hustling it for ourselves (I.e. Trusting the colleague to make sure credit went where credit was due).

In my made-up example, the nice gal ends up doing the dishes. If she’d been a kind gal, she would have said a loving, but firm NO the second she realized her colleague hadn’t even started planning the party.

The colleague then would either a) be fired b) learn how to make her own magic in four days or c) fallen on her sword and gone to boss and explained the help she needed so everyone received proper credit (and appropriate workload).

But, since nice people get a rep for saying yes, we end up prime targets for users. Users loooove people who can’t set boundaries, because then it’s easier to take all they want and never give back, largely because ‘nice’ people wouldn’t hear of it.

We ‘nice folks’ say dumb crap like, Oh no, it’s fine you damaged my favorite blouse, broke my weed-eater, ‘forgot’ to come help me move (even though I’ve helped you move six times), etc. I understand.

Be Nice…Until It’s Time NOT to Be Nice

The 1989 movie Road House with Patrick Swayze is a brilliant illustration of the difference between kind and nice. Swayze plays Dalton, a professional bouncer and the best in the business. Tilghman, the owner of a sleazy bar in Missouri—The Double Deuce—hires Dalton in a last ditch attempt to clean the place up.

Tilghman is desperate. Everyone is out of control—customers, servers, staff, bouncers, and bartenders. Tilghman, being a ‘nice guy,’ has been unable to rein in the chaos and terror. He’s sunk a lot of money into a place where ‘you have to sweep the eyeballs off the floor at night.’

When Dalton makes an initial visit, it’s clear what’s going so horribly wrong. There are no boundaries or consequences for bad behavior. Some bouncers are more hot-headed than the patrons they throw out the front door. Other bouncers are too timid and allow customers to walk all over them. This then escalates into brawls and a lot of broken glass and blood.

Probably the best part of the movie is when Dalton lectures the bouncers and staff about being ‘nice.’

***Warning. There is brief profanity in this clip.

Dalton understands how important it is to be kind in order to deescalate tension, allow potential troublemakers to save face, and eventually attract the right sort of clientele. A higher quality patron won’t tolerate a bar where the staff is rude and disrespectful.

Yet, in this clip, Dalton brilliantly illustrates the difference between kind and nice.

Kindness is Power

The main difference between nice and kind is nice is a byproduct of weakness, fear, uncertainty, and low self-esteem. Kindness, by contrast, is a byproduct of confidence, peace, and respect for others as well as for oneself.

A kind person sets boundaries, commands respect, and learns when and how to say no. Kind people are comfortable with consequences. While happy to loan out an air compressor, if the borrower breaks it? They buy it or pay for it to be repaired. If they don’t? They lose the privilege of borrowing anything ever again.

Users pull a fast one…once.

No-ing What You’re Worth

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

It’s easy to claim we have dreams and goals. But do we? REALLY? I challenge y’all to check where exactly those dreams and goals sit on the priority list. Lemme guess, they haven’t even made the list.

STOP BEING NICE. Nice people indiscriminately say yes. Problem is, while we’re saying yes to everyone else, we’re constantly telling ourselves no.

Actually, we tell ourselves ‘later’—which is is ancient Aramaic for NEVER #TrueFactIJustMadeUp.

I get the house is a mess, but guess what? It can wait. Science has proven others can figure out how to use a vacuum, even teenagers. Send them a YouTube video, if need be. Hide the car keys in the garage and they’ll clean that sucker OUT.

It is also possible to put words on a page or in a blog…with dirty laundry present in your domicile. Dust will not negatively impact tweets and dingy whites have exhibited no measurable impact on story structure.

We are also—brace for it—under zero obligation to orchestrate/supervise so many play dates and ‘fun’ activities our kids grow up believing ‘Lido Deck’ means ‘Mom’ (or ‘Dad’) in Spanish, and that life is a never-ending Carnival Cruise.

How many of us are getting up before dawn or staying up after midnight because our dream might just inconvenience someone else? Let them be inconvenienced for a change.

So many of us creative people bend more than the karma sutra and…well, that’s perfectly okay! But, if our spouse or kids are forced to make a PBJ instead of enjoying a home-cooked meal, that’s asking too much?

No. It isn’t. So stop feeling guilty.

Feel free to spend all day or all week cleaning that house, baking cookies for the church bake sale, helping your brother-in-law write his resume (which is code for you writing his resume for FREE) and I’ll tell you what to expect. You’ll be lost, hurt, burned out, stressed, and feeling like a failure.

Why? Because none of that ‘other stuff’ endures. A finished novel remains even while clean laundry disappears faster than Tupperware lids cross-bred with men’s socks.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Finished being nice? I confess, I blog on all the stuff I struggle with. I’m a work in progress. I wondered if I might need tattoo removal to get WELCOME off my forehead. Still wonder at times.

Have you put everyone and everything ahead of your dreams and goals? This isn’t only for writers. Have you set aside going to college, getting an advanced degree, taking a vacation, buying underwear without holes because everyone seems to rank higher on the list?

Have you been conditioned to equate boundaries with being ‘mean’ or ‘selfish?’ Ever nearly killed yourself to help a friend, coworker, family member in crisis only to later realize you were completely used?

Been there more than a few times. Sigh.

Yet, I hope this post helps y’all can see you can be strong, powerful AND kind. In fact, *quick plug here* that is a HUGE part of what I’m going to be teaching in my new class Beyond Bulletproof Barbie. Making a woman bitter and mean doesn’t automatically make her stronger.

Oh, and Cait’s teaching Beyond the Princess Prodigy because chronic RBF offers no magical advantage. We can write a kick@$$ warrior with the strength to be imperfect.

Scroll down for our new classes on how to write POWERFUL FEMALES! Get the BUNDLE!

Treat yourself (at least half as well as you do others 😉 .

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Busy, busy, busy. Aside from ‘parsnip‘ I’m beginning to think my new trigger word is ‘busy.’ A couple posts ago, I took on the insidious lie about us being able to ‘find time’.

There’s this generally accepted delusion that time is something we can find. No, time isn’t lost. We are. We can’t find time, we can only make time.

I bring up this notion of finding time for good reason. We tell ourselves we’d do X, if only we could find the time. Oh, but why can’t we find the time? Because we’ve been so unbelievably…busy.

Busy is an excuse, a copout, and a socially acceptable LIE. When we claim we’re ‘too busy’ we are often lying to others, ourselves or both.

***I am not counting last Friday when all our plumbing backed up into the HOUSE. I really WAS too busy to do my edits.

Yet, most of the times we claim we’re way ‘too busy’ we really aren’t. And, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I do this stuff, too. I’ve simply made it a point to catch myself when I use this word.

The word ‘busy’ is a red flag I’m lying about something…something probably important.

Busy Signal

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Remember in ancient times when people used landlines, before call-waiting? What did we do when we didn’t want to be bothered? We took the phone off the hook so anyone trying to reach us would get a ‘busy’ signal. We used this tactic to keep other people AWAY from us.

Maybe we needed a nap. Perhaps we required quiet uninterrupted time for other more important things like doing bills, studying, enjoying a date, or arguing with a ‘loved’ one 😀 .

We might have been trying to avoid facing someone or something we felt unable to handle. Bill collectors, deadbeat exes, family members with zero concept of boundaries.

Sometimes, we’d hit a limit, and simply couldn’t face life in general. We believed with some calm, quiet and rest we’d somehow rally back, find the answers, or muster the courage. More often than not, though, we wanted to hide.

Maybe just me.

If we look at all the reasons I just listed for ‘taking the phone off the hook’ this can offer incredible insight into our modern version of this evasive maneuver. The I’ve just been so BUSY feint.

We can look at ourselves and others more honestly, which is imperative if we yearn to live intentionally.

It Isn’t That Important

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

As humans, we’re always ranking what is important and what isn’t. The bugger is we do this no matter what. If we let ourselves drift along on auto-pilot, our subconscious (reptile brain) will do our ranking for us.

The problem is our subconscious mind is the part of the brain known to put our keys in the fridge or toss the banana while keeping the peel.

In a nutshell, our subconscious is a smidge flaky.

When Lizard Brain makes a list, it intends to keep us ‘safe.’ If we fail to consciously choose what matters, our lizard brains will do the choosing for us. Lizard brain is wired for survival. This means Lizard GPS is pretty much always the path of least resistance.

This is how we end up prioritizing laundry, dishes, Facebook, etc. ahead of actions that will yield real results. Then, when we’re threadbare and exhausted, all we have to say for our efforts is we’ve been…busy.

Contrast this with making a conscious ranking, and it’s easy to see why we’re so happy to hand the Lizard our keys. If we made a choice to prioritize exercise, quality family time, finishing our novel, cleaning out our garage, we’d be forced to be honest with ourselves and others.

An Example

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Yesterday, I attended my eldest nephew’s high school graduation. I was particularly close with this nephew when he was young. Yet, over time I saw him less and less. Despite invitations, messages and calls, I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen my nephew in the past four years (because he lives an HOUR away, not down the block anymore).

His go-to line is, ‘Sorry, Tante. I’ve just been so busy.’

***Tante is German for aunt.

The truth he either is unaware of or afraid to say? I’m a teenager and my girlfriend, school, sports, fishing, etc. is way more fun than hanging out with my middle-aged aunt.

Granted, the truth hurts, but can I really blame him? Um, yeah maybe school, sports, girlfriend and being a teenager slightly higher priority and more fun than driving an hour to hang with the middle-aged auntie 😛 .

Of course, part of me wants to remind him exactly how UN-FUN playing hours of HALO with a six-year-old really was. A six-year-old who hoarded ammo and got me killed no less than fifty times an hour. NO. A hundred!

How burying stuff in the yard and drawing treasure maps for him? Sitting in triple-digit heat for his peewee soccer games?

Yeah…not fun.

But I don’t because MY priorities have nothing to do with HIS. I was older when I chose to rank quality time with a child over whatever I found fun in 2005.

If I can see past the ‘lack of time’ facade because he is ‘so busy’ then I’m not wounded when he isn’t scheduling me in. Why? It isn’t a TIME problem at all. Granted I miss him, but that doesn’t mean I have to feel slighted by him.

Though if he thinks I’m sharing my plasma grenades with him ever again? MISTAKEN 😛 .

Pretty Fictions & Pointy Truths

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety
Meh, your little brother still thinks I am COOL.

Truth frees me to not take this personally. Instead of grieving ‘my nephew ignores me’ *sniff sniff*, it’s simply I’m not high on his list (likely not on it at all). This liberates me from chasing someone who doesn’t rank our relationship on the list of priorities.

***Leaves me more time to work on the younger one who always loved me MORE 😛 .

Seriously, my eldest nephew’s young and maturity hopefully will change his priorities. Make hanging out with me ‘cool’ again.

Overall, the point is that it isn’t personal.

My nephew tells me he’s busy because that’s easier, kinder, more polite than the truth. Control is not love. His priorities don’t have to be the same as mine.

Sure, I could use the guilt card (*cough* Remember HALO?) but then I’m forcing MY way. I’m juking the relational algorithm, which is known as manipulation.

FYI: Nothing good really ever comes out of manipulation.

Why families, friendships, relationships, etc. end up in drama is when we accept ‘busy’ at face value. We try harder because we cling to a lack of time being the core issue instead of the truth…we aren’t a priority.

Remember Dating?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

How I wish I’d have understood all this when I was young. I remember going on a date, believing it went well because he said he’d call tomorrow.

Then days would pass with no call, no plans for another date. If I ran into this person, usually there was some rambling talk about so much work and blah blah blah and being busy.

It wasn’t me AT ALL, just they were BUSY. They would totally call…soon.

No, they had no intention of calling. Some were simply too chicken to say, Was real, was fun, but not real fun. Ghosting me was easier (Reptile move for sure) and ‘busy’ an easy out when forced into confrontation.

For others, ‘busy’ was a solid tactic to keep me hopeful. If the ‘busy’ hook worked, then the guy could always keep me in the wings as a backup. In case the girl he really liked said no to going out, Kristen would be waiting on that call.

As I matured and began to recognize the ‘busy’ feint, I moved on. This kept me from chasing guys who were too chicken or too selfish/greedy to be honest. I finally gained enough confidence (and wisdom) to grasp that, if a guy was really into me, he’d move heaven and earth to MAKE time.

And this is how I met my wonderful husband! Because I stopped filling my time with guys who weren’t that wild about me, I made room for the one guy who was completely crazy about me (and still is 10 years later) 😉 .

Busy is no excuse.

Yet, beyond dating, how many of us invite unnecessary pain by accepting ‘busy’? The boss who is ‘too busy’ to look at your ideas, the friend who is ‘too busy’ to call, the partner who is ‘too busy’ to help?

Deep down we know the truth (but are afraid of it) and this is why we end up defeated, wounded, anxious, neurotic, etc. If we got honest, we might change jobs, change friends, or change habits, but that’s a lot of work and kinda scary.

Okay, a LOT scary.

Willing vs. Unwilling

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

Thus far, Lizard has been making the lists. Time to take control. First of all, allowing others to use the ‘busy’ card, gives us a pass on confrontation. Our culture has made confrontation to be some horrible thing to be avoided at all costs. Confrontation has been made synonymous with fighting and anger.

Patently FALSE.

Confrontation really is a matter of willing versus unwilling.

If others are ‘too busy’ then let them be busy. Move on. If things change, and they truly value ‘whatever’ they’ll call. Yet, if they don’t, we’ve already let it go (along with all the feelings of rejection).

So far we’ve talked a lot about others. Now, what about us? When we consciously rank what is a priority and what isn’t, expect pain. We will have to choose the pain of what we want later over the thrill of what’s easy NOW.

Oh, and we’ll need to learn to invoke the NO.

Consciously choosing what is important keeps us out of the spiral of ‘I Suck.’ I don’t have six-pack abs and 12% body fat because I am unwilling to live in a gym and measure all my food. Thus, if I am UNWILLING to do these things, then I need to be okay with my relatively fit but fluffy self.

If I claim I’m WILLING to do all it takes to be a successful author (meaning actually sell books), then the ‘I’m too busy’ to write, take classes, build a platform, etc. doesn’t fly anymore.

Are You Willing?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

My approach to building a brand and platform is not sexy, exciting and doesn’t magically sell a bazillion books overnight. I created a system that worked with what I was willing and UNWILLING to do.

I am WILLING to be patient and invest long-term building relationships. Totally willing to strengthen my writing skills (via blogging and books).

Conversely, I’m unwilling to hustle harder than an multi-level marketer crossed with a Jehovah’s Witness. I’m also unwilling to build my platform’s FOUNDATION anywhere I am not fully in control (ergo why I’m a fan of the blog and don’t trust Facebook).

I’m unwilling to automate, because I don’t like spam and am unwilling to serve it to others. I choose not to focus on promotions and ads and marketing because if it means even MORE work?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

In life, I’m willing to be relentless, work hard, and do my best. I’m unwilling to do this at the expense of my integrity, my peace, my family and my friends.

This might mean I won’t have an immaculate home.

*heavy sigh*

But now, instead of whirling down the ‘I Suck’ spiral, I can be more at ease. I’m unwilling to give up choice writing time and make my family a neurotic mess…all to have a Good Housekeeping picture-perfect house.

I’m not lazy or a slob or not trying hard enough and I am certainly NOT too ‘busy.’ I simply have decided what I’m willing and unwilling to pursue. For me? Reading and taking more classes and writing and honing my skills is more important than having a Martha Stewart house or being a 44-year-old fitness model.

So, yoga pants covered in cat fur it is!

In the End

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety
Really? Can I come out then?

Once we face the truth (or fiction) of busy, we can let go of a lot of needless baggage. Life crises aside, generally we aren’t too busy to finish the novel, have buns of steel, or a shabby-chic perfect house if we truly want those things.

We aren’t too busy to call that old friend, we’re simply unwilling to get sucked into drama. We’re now willing to see we were never too busy. We were too sad, afraid, ashamed to face this person we care about is actually toxic.

Obviously the list could go on and on. What I hope to impress on y’all is we all can fall for the ‘busy’ without asking the next question. Are we really too busy, or do we suck at saying no and setting boundaries?

Do we really WANT that promotion, new car, hot body, Pinterest-worthy home, or best-selling book?

Kristen Lamb, ghosting, relationships and ghosting, setting boundaries, self-awareness and success, psychology, how to set priorities, dealing with self-criticism, handling anxiety

If we stopped and asked the next logical questions, we might realize we don’t want what we claim we do. Not really. And that is okay.

Once we let that go, we can stop the incessant inner narrative that tells us how much we suck. When I hear myself use the ‘busy’ feint, this is a HUGE road flare to stop and evaluate.

Am I ACTUALLY too busy? Or have I let Lizard do too much driving? Am I afraid, tired, failing to set and enforce boundaries, not being honest about what I want and don’t want?

Are there people, problems, hardships I need to confront but can’t because I lack courage, will, wisdom? Am I ‘taking life off the hook’ and giving the ‘busy signal’ to buy time? Is this a warning I need more rest?

It’s okay, we’re all (mostly) human here 😉 .

Frankly, life is too short to be busy.

I don’t know about y’all but who wants THIS headstone?

‘Here Lies Kristen: She Was Busy’

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you see ‘busy’ in a new way? Guilty of taking life off the hook to buy time so you could DEAL? *raises hand here* Have you wasted time chasing people, dreams, goals when a nice long pause might have saved a ton of grief?

Have you taken time to ask what you want and why? And do you really want it?

Does the idea of willing and unwilling help clarify? Maybe we aren’t as lazy, untalented, slow, etc. as we thought? Perhaps, when viewed through a different lens, we aren’t doing all too shabby.

Sure, my house is covered in cat fur, but my kid is fun and loving and kind!

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

May’s winner announced next post!

Upcoming Class

Backstory—The Yarn Behind the Book

June 8th with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds. We need to know our character’s past, their gols, conflicts and motivations…but don’t get crazy 😉 .

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.